London's New Year's Day Parade
No city does pomp and pageantry quite like London and, on New Year’s Day, you can enjoy one of the greatest spectacles of all: London’s New Year’s Day Parade. This year’s theme is 30 Magical Years, and it is guaranteed to cast a spell over the capital.
How It All Started
The event started on January 1 1987 by Bob Bone, with his wife Geri. ‘It really has been 30 magical years,’ executive director Bone says. ‘It has gone in an absolute flash. There was no magical wand to make it all happen – just a vision to create something wonderful and a huge amount of work.
‘The event has grown beyond all recognition – from a few hundred hardy souls turning out to entertain a modest crowd to more than 8,000 performers, 500,000 spectators on the streets and a TV audience of millions.’
One of the parade’s aims is to raise money for good causes and, so far, it has raised more than £1 million for London charities.
There are 8,000 performers taking part in the parade, including drummers, cheerleaders and – aptly with the theme – a magician. Illusionist Darcy Oake, who rose to fame on Britain’s Got Talent, promises to captivate visitors: ‘The New Year’s Day Parade is massive. I have the chance to attempt my latest, greatest escape. Each time they get more difficult and more dangerous – I am upping the stakes. It’s going to be epic.’
Five giant helium balloons have been specially commissioned for the event, including a mayoral figure. The balloons will tower over some of London’s most iconic buildings, each flying almost 100 feet above the streets of the West End. Joe Bone, director of event participation, says: ‘The balloons are back this year – and we couldn’t be happier. We knew how popular they used to be – and pulled out all the stops to give London a lift on the 30th anniversary.’
Performers come from London and across the world. There are 32 boroughs in London, and each one is represented at the parade. The parade also offers these boroughs the opportunity to compete for tens of thousands of pounds in charity cash prizes, which are donated by the New Year’s Day Parade. There are also marching bands from high schools and universities that have travelled from the United States especially for the event.
How To Watch It
The parade is a free family event and sees up to 500,000 people line the streets. The route begins at noon at Green Park tube station and takes in many iconic sights, including Piccadilly Circus, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. The event ends at Parliament Square at 3.30pm. For those who want the best view, grandstand tickets are available to buy and offer seating at Waterloo Place, Piccadilly and Regent Street. The show is also beamed to more than 500 TV stations across the world. Join the parade! londonparade.co.uk
Ceremonies and Traditions
Ceremony Of The Keys: This 35-minute ritual, in which the gates of the Tower of London are locked, has taken place every night for 700 years. The event is free, but gets booked up fast.
Changing The Guard: When guards from one regiment replace another, the ritual is known as Changing the Guard. This takes place at 11.15am at Buckingham Palace, usually on alternate days.
State Opening Of Parliament : This tradition began in the 1500s, but the current ceremony dates from 1852. The Queen leads a procession to Westminster, and an official called Black Rod strikes the door three times before it is opened.
Trooping The Colour: Beginning in the 17th century under Charles II, this event, which includes musicians, horses and an RAF flypast, marks the Queen’s official birthday every June.